The news of Kobe Bryant’s death shook the world, leaving basketball fans, former teammates, and fellow celebrities reeling from the sudden shock. Bryant, 41, and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, were among nine people who died Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020 when the helicopter they were traveling in crashed in mountainous terrain in Calabasas, Calif. Bryant leaves behind his wife, Vanessa, and three other daughters.
After news of Bryant’s death was made public, celebrities took to social media to share their sentiments about the retired Los Angeles Lakers star. Other famous faces reflected on Bryant’s life as they attended the Grammy Awards, which were held the same day as the crash in the Staples Center — where Bryant formerly played basketball. Details are still emerging, but it’s clear that countless fans were impacted by this sudden loss of life. In fact, some notable figures broke down on live television when they spoke about Bryant’s untimely passing.
Jimmy Fallon broke down sharing a story about Bryant
Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon kicked off his show the night after Kobe Bryant’s death by sharing a personal story about meeting the pro baller at a party in Los Angeles when he was just 21 and Bryant was 17. They were both rookies in their respective fields — Fallon in standup comedy; Bryant in the NBA. Fallon revealed that he and Bryant went on a memorable beer run during the party, and it was Bryant’s basketball credentials that convinced a salesperson to hook them up with the booze that “saved the party.”
Fallon continued, “Kobe went on to become a legend. Five NBA titles, two Olympic gold medals, 18 All-Star appearances. One of the most brilliant and most respected players in NBA history.” Fighting back tears, Fallon talked about how he and Bryant would reflect on that party whenever they ran into each other. “We’d laugh at all the good things that had happened since, and we’d laugh at how much fun it was to raise kids.”
“Kobe was such a life force, so strong and creative and inspired that in my head I thought that he was going to live forever,” Fallon said.
He closed his monologue with a challenge to honor Bryant by following the athlete’s example: “Love your family, love your teammates, and outwork everyone else in the gym.”
Jay Williams was reduced to tears on ESPN
Sports analyst and former Chicago Bulls player Jay Williams looked back on his relationship with Kobe Bryant on an episode of ESPN Sports Center. Williams was visibly shaken as he spoke about Bryant’s legacy, noting that it’s easy to lose sight of who people really are in the fast-paced landscape of press and sports. “He was one of the most special individuals I’ve ever met, and it wasn’t just his on-the-court performance,” Williams said. “We’re all prone to make mistakes … but his innate character. His being. His spirit was incredible.”
“There was something so damn uplifting about him. It just made you want to be better in every aspect of your life because that’s who he was,” Williams said, urging listeners to treasure every second of their lives. The former point guard went on to talk about his experience meeting Kobe during his own rookie season in the NBA. Williams said he was in a slump and had arrived at the Staples Center early to practice before the game. Kobe was already in there working hard, and he was still there practicing hard as Williams got ready to leave. Williams later asked Bryant why he practiced for so long. Bryant’s response changed Williams’ life.
Bryant said, “I saw you come in the gym and I wanted you to know that no matter how hard you worked, you weren’t going to outwork me.”
L.A. Clippers Coach Doc Rivers burst into tears before a game
Los Angeles Clippers Coach Doc Rivers had an especially emotional reaction when he was asked about the death of Kobe Bryant. Rivers, who led the Boston Celtics to an NBA Championship victory against Bryant’s L.A. Lakers in 2008, was getting ready to coach a game when asked to share his thoughts. Tears streamed down Rivers’ face as he struggled for words. “I just don’t have a lot to say. The news is just devastating to everybody who knew him.”
Rivers did find the words to discuss Bryant’s basketball legacy. “He was such a great opponent. It’s what you want in sports. He had that DNA that very few athletes can ever have. The Tiger Woods and the Michael Jordans…”
Rivers and Bryant had talked at length at a function just weeks before his death, reminiscing about past games, but Williams said Bryant was the happiest he’d ever seen him as a retired player doing big things for others. The coach closed by discussing Bryant’s lasting impact on his life. “We’re all Lakers today,” he said. “…Sometimes the more you compete, the more respect you have for the opponent. I would say that’s the way I felt with Kobe.”
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